Usually, when Castle and Beckett break a case, it happens after they force themselves to forget what they already think they know about it and approach it from a new angle. This week, the 12th Precinct meets a woman who has no choice but to approach the world from a wholly different angle. Mia Laszlo has a sense of smell so advanced that it might qualify as a superpower over at the CW.
Mia is a quirky woman with the rotten (ha) luck of occupying the same parking garage as a murderer and his victim. She escapes with her life, even after riding the elevator to street level with the man she assumes did the deed. Ryan and Esposito trace the anonymous call Mia made to 911 to report the shooting after the unit catches the case of who killed Justin Fletcher, age 38, owner of a tricked-out, Bond-appropriate vehicle. She’s not thrilled to have the detectives on her doorstep; Mia prefers solitude for reasons that become clear after she threatens to sue the NYPD for “assault with a deadly odor.” She has a condition called hyperosmia — an almost debilitatingly sensitive nose. Beckett can only pull short answers and hostility out of her (“Are you always this unpleasant?” “Yep.”), but a nosy Castle sees how Mia’s olfactory prowess has the potential to be a game changer in Operation Reunite Caskett 2015.
For a procedural that’s featured hundreds of murders, Castle can be awfully life-affirming. “The Nose” is a character of study of a woman who’s wiped all the risk out of her life and figures out that she kind of misses it. The case is beside the point, with all apologies to Mr. Fletcher. The detectives learn that the victim worked as a courier of priceless items — a transporter, if you will, and Esposito certainly does. (“Like the movie?”) His little brother and next of kin doesn’t know what Justin was transporting at the time of his death, but he does lead them to a company who often engaged his services, the Falcon Unit. The key to the case has to lie in the contents of the briefcase that Mia saw the alleged killer carrying; luckily the show’s new specialist in the trade of the rare and the high-priced shows up to offer her services.
Toks Olagundoye is back as Hayley Vargas this week, after disappearing for a couple of episodes. She’s still doing her bounty-hunting thing, and has been hired by an insurance company to recover the item Justin was carrying. The briefcase held a lost van Gogh painting that had sold for $65 million in private auction. Hayley wants to collaborate; if all goes well, the 12th will get their man, and she’ll get her payday. She also slots into the show as a Rick Castle replacement for Beckett to bounce ideas off of. But because his name is still in the title, the writer will always return at the 11th hour to get his hero moment.
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For most of the episode, Castle is being an accidental hero elsewhere. Mia mentions offhand on their first meeting that Beckett’s pheromones were going bananas when she saw her husband. (“Are you a wizard?” “A cursed one.”) Castle gets the bright idea to use Mia as some sort of feelings bloodhound, so he knows for sure when he’s turning Beckett on or off. It’s an afterthought when he realizes that her heightened sense could also help to identify the killer, especially in a case with little physical evidence to go on. Castle needles his way into Mia’s scentless sanctuary (i.e., her apartment) and gets his comeuppance for his presumptuousness when he finds out just what “decontamination” entails.
Castle calls Beckett to offer up Mia’s nose, and Beckett is desperate enough to take him up on it. All they have on the cop end is a two-bit criminal named Freddy Stark who was trying to steal the painting but was probably waylaid because his cat wanted a little stroll and then showed up too late. With more Beckett contact on the table, Castle pulls the dirtiest trick in the book to smoke Mia out of her apartment, so to speak. (“You were right about those tacos.”)
Beckett humors this new pair of unlikely partners and puts together a smell lineup; according to her nose, Freddy is telling the truth. He was hired to pick up the painting by Tom Gilliam, who runs the Falcon Unit. Ryan and Esposito visit Gilliam at his office to find out why he’d send low-level muscle to rob one of his own couriers. But someone else had already done the robbing. Transport commissions are secured when the item is safely delivered; Justin hadn’t booked the job but decided it was his anyway. This hijacking must have annoyed the transporter who had been confirmed, a Guy Ritchie-movie caricature named Liam Hollister.
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Rivals tend to be viable suspects, especially when there’s a six-figure payday involved. Ryan and Esposito find Hollister and his conspicuous car while they’re in the middle of a partnership crisis. The results of the sergeant’s exam came in: Only Javier passed. The very idea that this kind of power imbalance could upset their friendship is too disorienting for Ryan to understand, hence his plaintive “How did you pass and I didn’t?” Esposito just wants his buddy to be happy for him, but Ryan’s envy can’t hide. So it’s extra suspicious when Liam gives chase through a storehouse of some kind, and the confusion results in Ryan accidentally shooting Esposito square in the ass. This turn of events is a hit in the precinct for obvious reasons, and Javier should expect to be reading memos addressed to “Ass-posito” at least until he doesn’t need the cane anymore. (But he should definitely keep the cane.)
Hayley predicts that Liam will try to unload his distinctive Rolls-Royce now, and puts Castle on the search for the buyer. Castle and Mia visit a left-of-legal showroom with a permissive salesman and spot Liam’s whip among the other toys. (Isn’t it common knowledge that Castle works with the police now, though? How has he still kept his criminal buddies?) But Liam is still in the garage, and makes a move to take out Castle and protect the briefcase that’s in the trunk. Mia, who’s fiddling in the driver’s seat, puts the car in reverse, throwing Liam off balance and knocking the gun out of his hand. Ryan and Esposito come by to pick up the suspect and want to know how exactly Mia and Castle managed to detain him in the boot of his own car. “Because we’re awesome and you two suck,” Mia answers. “Next question.”
The party was in that generic parking garage that night; Liam also admits to being on the premises but denies killing Justin. When Liam confronted the competition, Justin reconnected with the transporter’s code, or whatever. He apologized, Liam claims, and handed over the artwork so Liam could deliver it. Hayley wants to return the painting to her client; she can’t, because she doesn’t have it. Oil paintings take years to fully dry, Mia chips in. The alleged van Gogh in their possession smells just like a forgery.
Ryan and Esposito make up for long enough to do some art history homework. The ownership of the painting that started this whole case has been contested for years, and the detectives and their captain came into contact with the son of a family who’s been fighting for the piece earlier in the case. Lorenzo seemed to be an innocent lackey of demanding hedge fund manager Hawthorne Carter, but is actually a desperate man trying to reclaim his family’s legacy. He shows up to Castle’s apartment while Castle, Martha, and Mia are enjoying a soggy, flavorless dinner (well, one of them is enjoying it), and holds them up at gunpoint. Swoon: Castle calmly instructing Lorenzo to point his gun back at him instead of at the women; double swoon: Lucy, the home operating system, heroically saving the day.
Despite appearances, Lorenzo wasn’t planning on killing anyone for the painting, least of all Justin. Justin became his accomplice in a scheme to swap the genuine article out for the forgery. The ideal outcome was for Lorenzo to walk away with his birthright and the bidder to receive the fake, being none the wiser. Castle and Beckett reason that the forger himself killed Justin; the smell of Freon, a few strands of hair, and an artistic talent lead them right back to Justin’s baby brother. He had racked up gambling debts all over the city, and a multi-million dollar job was too huge to resist, as much as he claimed to love his sibling.
Speaking of love and the weird ways we show it, the forced separation of Castle and Beckett continues to be baffling. Fortunately, Castle had another person to focus on this week besides himself and his own broken heart, and he was the better for it. Mia and Castle made a bizarre and effective team, and it was heartening to watch them identify each other’s fears and attempt to banish them. “I did some pretty extraordinary things today,” Mia reports proudly when Castle begs her not to hide herself away anymore. “Mia, I just think that world’s a better place with you running around in it,” he says.
Castle gets his confidence boost from Mia in return. “Beckett still loves you,” she says. “With a passion, and you don’t have to measure pheromones to sense that.” Mia is a consultant for a perfume company and has spent years helping businesses to bottle passion. It doesn’t work, she insists. “They’re all just forgeries, like that painting. What you and Beckett have, now that’s the genuine article.” In other words: all in time, Rick. All in time.
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